How Often Should My Dog Receive Vaccinations? - What Vaccinations Should He Get?
it was standard veterinary practice in the United States to vaccinate
dogs yearly for common infectious diseases. In high-stress, multi-pet
households or special circumstances this may still are acceptable.
Immunity to certain diseases, such as leptospirosis is short, so in
dogs at high risk of this disease, annual vaccination is wise if they
tolerate the vaccine well. Lyme disease vaccine may require yearly
booster vaccinations. However, the ticks that carry this disease are
only present in certain areas of the United States. So weigh the risk
of your pet contracting Lyme disease before deciding to have the
vaccine administered. Many veterinarians believe that Lyme vaccine has
the potential of causing adverse effects such as generalized arthritis,
allergy or other immune diseases.
Another commonly administered vaccine is for kennel cough. This is
usually a mild and transient disease contracted during boarding,
grooming or dog shows. Most pets do not live in breeding kennels, are
not boarded, do not go to dog shows and have only occasional contact
with dogs outside their immediate family. Also, the immunity this
vaccine imparts is short-lived. I recommend it only when owners
anticipate likely exposure. I am more concerned about toy breeds in
which coughing can persist quite some time due to the narrow tracheas
common in these breeds.
Vaccinations Given In the United States:
For the last forty years, it has been standard veterinary practice in
the United States to vaccinate dogs yearly for canine distemper virus
(CDV), canine leptospirosis (CL), canine adenovirus-1 & hepatitis
(CAV-1), canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV), canine parvovirus (CPV),
canine Corona virus (CV) as well as canine bordatella or kennel cough
and Lyme disease. Recently, veterinarians and pet owners have begun to
question the need for yearly vaccinations and the possible negative
effects of over-vaccination.
How Vaccines Work:
Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to a disease
organism so that the dog is protected against various pathogens in its
environment. If the immunized dog is later exposed to the infectious
agent, these antibodies react quickly to attack and neutralize the
Puppy hood Vaccinations:
When it comes to puppies most veterinarians are in agreement. Puppies
should receive their CDV, CL, CAV-1, CPIV and CPV vaccinations at 7-9
weeks of age, 12-13 weeks of age, and finally at 16-18 weeks of age to
insure they are well protected against these diseases. I generally
administer an intranasal preparation of canine bordatella at 12 and 18
weeks of age. At 12-16 weeks of age I give puppies a killed three-year
rated rabies virus vaccination (Merial's Emrab-3). All the products on
the market for canine leptospirosis are all killed products. Those for
the rest of these diseases are freeze-dried living virus that have been
grown in tissue culture in a way that makes them non-pathogenic i.e.
unable to cause disease. Actually, a single injection, at the right
time, of all these live products imparts good, long lasting immunity to
all of these diseases. The problem is that puppies absorb antibodies
against these diseases from their mothers. Depending on the level of
immunity in the mother, this transient parental immunity in the
offspring interferes with the puppy’s ability to produce its own long
lasting immunity to these diseases. In some puppies, parental immunity
is low enough that by 8-12 weeks the vaccination to work. In others,
parental immunity interferes with the action of the vaccine for up to
18 weeks. The tests that determine parental immunity levels in puppies
are expensive and rarely run. So because we do not know just when to
vaccinate we give a series of three or four injections so that at least
one of them will work. I only give Corona virus vaccine to puppies
because it is a disease of puppies.
Once we are sure we have a protected puppy we need to decide how often
we should revaccinate the pet to keep immunity levels protective. Until
recently, veterinarians simply gave all dogs booster shots every year.
This is what the vaccine manufacturers suggested. Besides, it brought
our clientele back to our animal hospitals yearly, which increased our
income and gave us the opportunity to detect problems early before the
owners were aware of them. Most veterinarians do a thorough physical
examination on pets at the time of their yearly vaccinations and we
often detect problems during the exam. By law, most states require a
yearly rabies vaccination even though studies have shown that many of
the rabies vaccines we use give us three years of protection.
Many veterinarians, myself included, were suspicious that the vaccines
we used were giving much longer periods of protection than one year. We
knew this because we never saw distemper, hepatitis or provirus disease
in dogs that had been vaccinated - even many years earlier. Part of the
problem involves the typical fee structures of veterinary practices. We
tend to undercharge for complex surgery and subsidize those procedures
with the money we earn on yearly vaccinations. I do not know how this
practice came about but it has existed at least since the 1950’s. There
was also an incentive for vaccine manufacturers to sell more vaccine if
boosters were recommended annually as well as a one-year mind set among
the bureaucrats that staff the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics
that dictate vaccination protocols. These are the same deep thinkers
that put a two-year expiration date on a vial of water.
How Frequently To Immunize: in the January 2004 issue of a U.S.
veterinary journal, the Pfizer Drug Company, a major manufacturer of
dog vaccines, published an article. They determined that their canine
vaccines were active (protective) up to and beyond four years after
administration for all five of these diseases (1). Other studies have
documented immunity lasting up to seven years (2)(3). No two vaccine
manufactures produce identical products so you should not assume that
the brand your veterinarian uses induces this long immunity but I
suspect they all protect well over a year.
There may be risks associated with too frequent vaccinations. For one,
the immune system of your pet is stressed by these vaccinations.
Occasional dogs develop allergic reactions, facial edema, enteritis,
lethargy, fevers, pruritis, nausea, coughing. We also suspect that
vaccinations can trigger certain autoimmune diseases such as Addison’s
disease on dogs. Occasionally these reactions are life threatening.
Vaccines contain many ingredients besides the dried virus. Some of
these, antibiotics and adjuvants (enhancers) are implicated in vaccine
reactions. When these vaccinations are given they are best given
subcutaneously with a TB syringe with 25-gauge needle. This small
needle is less likely to carry a plug of skin into the injection site
causing swelling and inflammation.
In dogs that have had prior history of vaccine reactions I often do not
give yearly vaccinations. I feel the risks outweigh the benefits. If I
am suspicious that a dog might have a reaction to a particular vaccine
I pre-administer antihistamines (Benadryl) and give a minute test dose
of 0.05ml. If the dog is normal thirty minutes after the test dose I
give it the remaining one-milliliter. I limit yearly or every two-year
vaccinations for the four “core” diseases to “higher risk dogs”. Higher
risk dogs are dogs that roam or take unsupervised strolls; dogs that
play with other dogs not from their household, dogs that have contact
with wild animals, or swim and drink from pools puddles and streams.
Other higher risk dogs are coprophagic (eat stool). Others are more at
risk because the attend obedience classes, dog shows, field trials, and
large grooming and boarding facilities. About half the dogs I see fall
into this higher risk category.
Several rabies vaccines are federally certified for three years of
protection. However, many states disregard these federal guidelines and
require yearly vaccination. When yearly rabies vaccination is mandated,
I prefer thiomersol-free, non-adjuvanted vaccine, such as Merial's IMRAB® 1
Determining The Need For Booster Vaccinations By Serum Titer:The
scientific way to determine if your dog needs a booster vaccination is
to run serum titer tests. Protective titers for CDV are 1:32 or
greater. For CAV-1, CAV-2 and CPIV titer of 1:16 or greater are
protective and for CPV titer of 1:80 or greater are protective and mean
your dog does not need a booster vaccination. Many veterinary
laboratories already offer this service http://www.antechdiagnostics.com/ .
Least protective appear to be the vaccinations against CPIV,
Bordatella, Lyme Disease and the various serovars (types) of
Leptospirosis. For these diseases, annual vaccination is probably a
good idea. It is a good idea to give your pet a booster vaccination
against Bordatella (kennel cough) about two weeks before it is kenneled.
Note: Adjuvants are compounds that are added to vaccines in an attempt
to increase their effectiveness. I no longer use them because they seem
to have many side effects. At least one company, Intervet, offers a
non-adjuvanted 3-year vaccines. This is the vaccine that I use in dogs.
It contains none of the adjuvants that may cause cancer or
immunological disease later in life. An even better choice might be
Heska's intranasal vaccines which require no injection. Merial's
Purevax products use recombinant canarypox vector vaccine technology
which may lessen these problems. It is too soon to tell. I suggest your
pet receive a rabies vaccine that also contains no adjuvants. Even
non-adjuvanted injectable vaccines are not risk-free. If your dog has
had prior vaccine reactions, think seriously before having any vaccines
It takes a full 14 days after vaccination for your pet to be fully protected.
Approximately 1% of dogs will have reactions subsequent to vaccination.
The percentage goes much higher when leprospirosis protection is
included in the vaccine. These reactions range from a day or two of
reduced activity and food intake to life-threatening reactions that
occur within 30 seconds of vaccine administration. The most serious of
these are true allergic reactions. True allergic reactions do not occur
when the dog is first vaccinated. They occur on subsequent vaccinations
to products that share the same ingredient(s). The longer the interval
between vaccination and reaction, the less severe the reaction is
likely to be. Many of these reactions - perhaps all of them - are due
to components added to the vaccine as preservatives. I never suggest
that small breeds of dogs or puppies under 5 months of age receive
leptospirosis vaccination. The risk of vaccine reaction decreases
significantly as body weight increases. Dogs weighing 22-99 pounds have
approximately half the risk when compared with dogs weighing less than
22 pounds such as Chihuahuas, toy poodles, dachshunds, pugs and
terriers. The more vaccines administered during the same office visit,
the more likely reactions are to occur. (JAMA 227:1102-1108).
Ron Hines is a DVM residing in Texas, he will consult via phone in
conjunction with working with your local, attending vet. For more info
please visit, www.2ndchance.info.
Dr. Hines writes his articles to the best of his abilities, based on
his experiences and knowledge. However, please understand that HE TAKES
NO RESPONSIBILITY WHATSOEVER FOR - AND MAKES NO WARRANTY WITH RESPECT
TO RESULTS THAT MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE USE OF ANY OF HIS WEBSITE
FEATURES, PROCEDURES OR RECOMMENDATIONS CONTAINED WITHIN HIS ARTICLES.
He present these articles solely for informational purposes, and THESE
ARTICLES DO NOT REPLACE LICENSED, HANDS ON, PROFESSIONAL, PET-SPECIFIC,
If you need
recommendations as to veterinary facilities in your area, please
contact your local SPCA or call the American Veterinary Medical
Association at (847) 925-8070 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or check the American Animal Hospital's Healthy Pet Locator.The
information in Dr. Hines’ articles are subject to interpretation and no
two pets will react exactly the same to any form of treatment. If you
have any questions about the information contained within, especially
as to decisions you may wish to make concerning the health or
well-being of your pet, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN.
by Ron Hines DVM PhD